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A Good Old-Fashioned Future Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1999
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These stories have a lot in common. They all take place in the near future, and most are action-oriented, involving colorful characters such as secret agents, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Mafioso's, and revolutionaries. But they are also personal tales that tend to focus on individuals rather than ideas, which makes them hit home more often than standard SF fare. The best of the bunch is probably "Taklamakan," a high-concept piece about two freelance spies sent to a central Asian desert called Taklamakan, where the Asian Sphere is doing some sort of secret research into space flight. "Bicycle Repairman" is set in the same world, but instead of in an Asian desert it takes place in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the spies in this story aren't the good guys. It's a less successful piece than "Taklamakan" but also a good read.
Not all of the stories in this collection have the edgy, this-is-what-tomorrow-will-be-like quality that typifies Sterling's best work. But even when Sterling isn't at his best he's entertaining, and A Good Old-Fashioned Future is certainly that. --Craig E. Engler
Top Customer Reviews
The best is "Maneki Neko," a genial story set in a Japan where the traditional gift economy has become fantastically enhanced. This one's up for a Hugo.
The weakest story is "The Littlest Jackal," another entry in the Siggy Starlitz sequence. Here the underground opportunist finds himself in the company of mercenaries trying to overthrow the local government and establish an off-shore banking haven. Not bad, but not up to the rest of the collection.
Strangest is a collaboration with Rudy Rucker about a Silicon Valley startup, synthetic jellyfish, and trouble in oil country.
Arguably the best of the stories here is "Big Jelly," a fevered collaboration with Rudy Rucker, whose motto sums up Sterling's shared vision nicely: "Seek Ye The Gnarl!"
This is a spendid, lingering collection, more coherent and immediately enjoyable than "Crystal Express" or "Globalhead."
His short stories tend to fare better. They are less ambitious but also tighter, and hence less distracting. "A Good Old-Fashioned Future" represents his latest collection of stories; the earlier works are "Globalhead" and "Crystal Express," which contains one absolute knock-out story called "Swarm."
These stories are less experimental than "Globalhead" and more successful. Most of them are set in the near future and focus on collapsing societies. The last three are set in the same world and form a loose novella; Sterling seems to like this setting.
None of the stories in here drags unacceptably, and some are quite good. It may be that Sterling has settled down to writing clean readable stories, rather than trying to write "outside the box."
The stories here are not such a slog to read as in the earlier works, those he wrote in the eighties. More accessible too, having less dense metaphorical content for the most part while still retaining the message-subtext. Sterling writes with purpose (most times).
Reading the last century's writers ideas of how the hacker community would become mainstream is amusing of course from a historical perspective. The assumption that hackers would be athletic and need to get physical proximity to their targets is charming, but who would want to read about spotty teens slowly growing a prison pallor from hours in the basement in front of a screen?
However, many of the ideas presented in these pages will ring true in the years post-wiki.
I found the writing to be excellent, in direct contravention of the opinions of others reviewing here. I also had no problem with a futuristic Japan not being credible to a person familiar with today's Japan. That's what happens to cultures in SF.
Anyway. I like the stories in this one better than the earlier collected stuff Sterling has written, and Taklamakan was worth the cost.
My favorite story in this collection is "Big Jelly," a collaboration Sterling hatched with his close friend Rudy Rucker of Freeware fame. "Big Jelly," is an anecdotal account of the unintended consequences that result from a second-chance meeting between Tug Mesoglea, a gay San Jose computer programmer, and Revel Pullen, a straight Texas oil billionaire that dabbles in venture capitalism on the side. While not the longest story in AGOFF, "Big Jelly" does seem to have the most going on, conceptually. Also note the glib sense of humor, as in the initials of the story, and the backward names, "gut" and "lever." Lever Pullen... hehe. Coincidentally this is the one story that has little in common with the others. The other stories seem to take place anywhere from 30 and 70 years from now. Based on the quality of this story, I'd love to see a whole novel from this pair. Would that be too much to ask for? After all, Bruce did collaborate once before on The Difference Engine with William Gibson. What do you say Bruce?
My second favorite parable in this group is "Deep Eddy," a forty-seven page recounting of Edward Dertouzas's pleasure trip from the metropolis of Chattanooga, Tennessee, into the dark heart of modern-day Dusseldorf, circa July 2035.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had only read a few of Sterlings books so I was happy to try a collection of short stories. It gives me a faster taste of the authors style on a wider range of narratives. Read morePublished on April 4, 2014 by Kodack
Bruce Sterling is one of the greatest of cyberpunk writers. Although he does not have the force and seriousness of William Gibson, he does bring the same level of imagination... Read morePublished on October 21, 2012 by Gregory Alan Wingo
This collection definitely has a mid-90s internet boom feel to it. Bruce Sterling is a futurist so his writing style is embedded with loaded terminology, peripheral technologies,... Read morePublished on October 29, 2011 by 2theD
This book contains seven science fiction stories by Bruce Sterling. Each is written in the high-tech, intense-action, near-future style one expects of a Bruce Sterling story. Read morePublished on July 27, 2011 by John M. Ford
This was the first Bruce Sterling I've read, fiction or non-fiction, and I definitely plan to read more. Read morePublished on January 9, 2007 by Jason Mierek
Bruce Sterling rose to prominence in the 1980s as the master visionary and literary theorist of the cyberpunk movement. Read morePublished on December 11, 2002 by Jonathan T. Smillie
This uneven collection points up a lot of what was going wrong for Bruce Sterling in the 1990s: an overconfidence in his own ability to have his finger on the pulse and sometimes... Read morePublished on December 2, 2001 by flying-monkey